Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Physical Education Teacher Effectiveness in a Public Health Context

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Physical Education Teacher Effectiveness in a Public Health Context

Article excerpt

The health benefits of physical activity are well documented, and the important role that schools and physical education (PE) can play in reducing sedentary behavior and contributing to population health has been identified. Although effective teaching is ultimately judged by student achievement, a major component of teacher and school effectiveness studies has been student engagement. Thus, in PE, it is important to assess the teaching and learning processes related to expected outcomes, including what students and teachers do and how lessons are delivered. Within a public health context, it is then important to assess how teachers provide students with ample health-enhancing physical activity to help them become physically fit and to learn generalizable movement and behavioral skills designed to promote physical activity and fitness outside of class time. In this article, we emphasize that the future of PE in our nation's schools will depend on the ability of schools to provide programs that are perceived to be of importance to the public; moreover, we believe that the future of PE rests on the effectiveness of PE teachers to operate within a public health context. In addition, we also provide a summary of teacher effectiveness research within a public health context and offer visions for the future assessment and evaluation of PE teacher effectiveness that move beyond the PE lesson to include components of the comprehensive school physical activity model.

Keywords: physical activity, physical fitness, schools, SOFIT

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Although questions about teaching effectiveness are not new to physical education (PE), we contend that the PE teacher effectiveness literature has generally lacked a curricular outcome focus. Thus, many of the notions about PE teaching effectiveness in the profession are substantially muddled. Toward this end, we believe that both the subject matter of PE and the notions of PE teacher effectiveness should be generally focused within a public health context.

The health benefits of physical activity during childhood and youth are well documented (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [USDHHS], 2009), and the important role that schools and PE can play in reducing sedentary behavior and contributing to population health has been identified (e.g., Institute of Medicine [IOM], 2013; Pate et al., 2006; USDHHS, 2012). The authors of the 1991 landmark paper "Physical Education's Role in Public Health" (Sallis & McKenzie, 1991) and its follow-up, "Physical Education's Role in Public Health: Steps Forward and Backward Over 20 Years and HOPE for the Future" (Sallis, McKenzie, et al., 2012), have strongly argued that schools are the most cost-effective public health resource in which to address inactivity and that physical educators are uniquely well positioned to provide and promote physical activity. In this regard, we believe that the survival of PE programs in schools will depend largely on how effective PE teachers are in operating within a public health context.

Not all PE programs are aligned with public health objectives, but the term HOPE Health-Optimizing Physical Education (HOPE) has recently been used to describe PE programs that focus specifically on aspects most likely to advance public health goals (Metzler, McKenzie, van der Mars, Barrett-Williams, & Ellis, 2013a, 2013b; Sallis, McKenzie, et al., 2012). In short, HOPE includes curricula and instruction that: (a) provide ample enjoyable opportunities for physical activity during class time; (b) teach generalizable movement and behavioral skills; and (c) encourage present and future physical activity and physical fitness. We believe that these are legitimate public health goals for PE at all grade levels and for programs that offer classes of varying frequencies and lengths. Other nationally recommended goals for PE (e.g., social and emotional outcomes) are also important, but they are assigned lower priority because they are the responsibility of all school curricular areas, not just PE. …

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